Creating Silhouettes

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Mobile Photography – Working with exposure and focus to create Silhouettes.

By Matt Glastonbury, accomplished Mobile Photographer, providing great tutorials and App reviews. Matt is an independent blogger who acts as a Contributing Editor to Ink361. (Add Matt on Google Plus)

In this tutorial we will go over a really simple, but extremely effective, method of capturing solid shapes with your mobile phone. We are following on from MOBILE PHOTOGRAPHY – EXPOSURE AND FOCUS.

Silhouettes can be a really dramatic way to emphasize form and subject. The background must be so bright that when you set your exposure tool on that light, it will be too much light for the subject, and subsequently make it too dark. This is perfect for mobile phones, as their small sensors often struggle with back-lit scenes anyway.

Step 1: Face your lens at a bright light source and adjust your exposure tool on the brightest parts, then lock it.

Step 2: Point your lens at the subject and set the focus, and lock that too. (if you’re not sure what I’m taking about, please check the linked tutorial, above, for more help with this – basically, you’ll need a third party camera app like KitCam or ProCamera to separate your focus and exposure)

Tip: Some ideas for props, or subjects, you can try adding to your scene: Balloons, umbrellas, people, animals, trees, buildings, landmarks, statues, hands, body actions, cameras.. anything with strong definite lines will work well.

Step 3: Move your phone around the main subject taking different shots in different positions/angles, allowing more and/or less light to shine through particular areas just to see what shapes and glows can be produced. Lens flares and refraction can also be really interesting. Even try getting the light source to partly glisten past your subject by allowing half of it to shine past, which can create more interesting shapes on your photo too.

Tip: Some ideas on sources of bright-light/back-lighting you can try: The sun, street lights, car lights, bright reflections bouncing off buildings windows or other objects.

To give you some ideas on beautiful or colourful background scenes, try going outside just before the sun sets, so you can get those lovely golden outlines and colours on everything and maybe a colourful sky.

When I enhance an image like this, I often find Snapseed’s Ambiance tool is really effective at making the colours really pop, not to mention boosting the saturation and contrast a little too.

Concluding.. Silhouetting can really create an intriguing image and I think that’s because we always try to fill in the details and imagine what’s in the darker shapes. I find this has great potential to take the viewer to another place, with their imagination, and that they often find themselves more engaged with the image for that reason. When you expose the back-lit scene well, you can create wonderfully interesting shapes and forms in your mobile photography.

I love seeing what everyone can do with these subjects, so please feel free to ask questions, tag me, and don’t forget to head over to my feed for the Silhouette Challenge if you’re up for it.



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